The bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, would require Internet service providers to adhere to the same common carrier non-discrimination principles that prevent telephone companies from blocking phone calls based on content. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is introducing the measure, which is co-sponsored by Chip Pickering (R-Miss.).
Two years ago, Markey unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a similar measure, but at the time there had not been well-publicized or widespread attempts by Internet service providers to interfere with traffic.
Recently, however, Verizon Wireless and Comcast have both made headlines for interfering with certain traffic. Last fall, an investigation by The Associated Press revealed that Comcast was slowing traffic to BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer sites. Comcast later denied blocking traffic, but acknowledged that it sometimes slowed traffic to bandwidth-intensive sites to manage its network.
Last year, Verizon Wireless also briefly prevented the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice from sending text messages to supporters.
The FCC has launched a probe of both Verizon Wireless and Comcast to determine whether the companies violated net neutrality principles, as set out in a 2005 policy statement. That document endorsed net neutrality in principle, but also contained a footnote stating that neutrality was "subject to reasonable network management."
Net neutrality advocates say the new bill will make it more difficult for companies to legally hinder traffic to certain types of sites. The act "is an important step in ensuring the Internet remains open for consumers and innovators," Markham Erickson, executive director of the pro-neutrality consortium Open Internet Coalition, said in a statement.
Separately, the FCC said Tuesday it intends to hold a hearing about net neutrality and network management on Feb. 26 at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass.